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What Would People Think?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Follow-Up Question

An interesting question arising out of the discussion in the last post.

Imagine you are personally in charge of designing the spiritual reality. Not just designing a religion, but designing the way things are.

Assume also that there is something like a Heaven and a Hell. (In my belief, as I state below, Heaven is a relationship with God and Hell is separation from God.....but for the purposes of this question I'm talking about any sort of reward and/or punishment.) I know not all of you believe in such things, but let's imagine for the purposes of discussion.

What would be a perfect or correct system to decide who goes where?

Christians trumpet as great mercy the idea that all you have to do to obtain salvation (that is, re-connect with God) is.....well....ask for it. Afterwards, as I explained below, much is demanded in terms of love and self-sacrifice, but it's quite simple at the start.

Zhubin tells me he finds such a system abhorrent....a system where only loyalty is demanded no matter how loving or cruel you are.

So I ask my readers, how should it be? If there is a Heaven/Hell, what would be the right way for deciding who goes where?

If it's a merit-based system, where should we draw the line and why? If it's on some other basis
, what is that basis? Or should we just let everybody in?

I personally like a system which is simple to get into (ask for it) but demands much of you afterwards (love). But I would....I'm a Christian.

What system would you choose and why?


  • I don't know how to make sense of the question. My first impulse is to say that anyone can get into heaven who follows the libertarian maxim of doing "anything that's peaceful." Respect the rights of others, you're in. Don't, you're out. At least for a while anyway. I'd support giving people second chances.

    But our moral intuitions and legal institutions are largely built around the fact of scarcity -- scarcity of knowledge, of resources, etc. I don't know if any of those scarcities would apply in a place deserving of the name of heaven, so I couldn't even begin to speculate on how to govern a place where the conditions of earthly life don't apply.

    By Anonymous Jacob, at 5/12/2007 6:56 PM  

  • In theory, you wouldn't have to govern it, because everyone would respect everyone else's rights and everything would be beautiful and nothing would hurt.

    We all do good and we all do bad. The way I've heard (and I think this is a Catholic thing) is that all your good deeds are weighed on a big scale against all your bad ones and so the decision is made. Seems fair to me. Obviously, big good deeds would weigh more and big bad deeds would weigh less.

    This is so much easier when you don't believe in Hell...

    By Blogger Jeff, at 5/12/2007 10:43 PM  

  • Perhaps not surprisingly, I generally like the "anything that's peaceful" maxim (though I never associated it with libertarianism). However, I would of course include those forced to use violence to keep the peace (i.e. soldiers, policemen, etc.) -- assuming they otherwise adhered to the adage.

    Jeff's system also sounds good, but the black-and-whiteness of good and bad is far too, well, black-and-white. And then the question, of course, is defining good and bad. Assuming the system is "a Catholic thing", would stuff like premarital sex weigh down the "bad" scale, even though there's really nothing wrong with it?

    I guess ultimately I would prefer to examine the extent to which a person truly lived: how much they enjoyed themselves, how well they connected with others, how they appreciated their time on Earth, and so on. However, I would not want to relegate a life squandered to an eternity of hell; perhaps these souls get to keep living until they get it right. Only those who commit truly heinous acts would be consigned to Hell, which for me is simply when you die, nothing happens. (I guess this is kind of Jacob's system with an additional, inward-looking extension.)

    This is one of those questions that makes me glad I'm not, you know, God. Because I'm not sure if I would be too forgiving or not forgiving enough.

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/16/2007 10:29 AM  

  • Mike, "Anything That's Peaceful" was the title of a book written by Leonard Read, founder of the first American libertarian think tank.

    By Anonymous Jacob, at 5/17/2007 8:38 AM  

  • See, Jacob, that knowledge would require actual reading and research rather than the gut reactions I typically prefer.

    Either way, my point was that there are plenty who would agree with that maxim (I would posit Jeff, for example, and if I'm wrong he can kick my ass, if for no other reason than irony) who are hardly libertarian.

    Regardless, Ben will probably kill us if his blog comments page turns into a discussion of libertarianism.

    A follow-up question to Jeff, though: if we were to use the scale, what would constitute good vs. bad? How good is good? How bad is bad? Aren't there deeds that are both? Or neither?

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/17/2007 10:18 AM  

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